B/R NBA Fantasy League Tumbles into Mock Draft Day with Controversy

Eric Pincus@@EricPincusLA Lakers Lead WriterMay 16, 2020

The Bulls' Zach Lavine and the Wizards' Bradley Beal found themselves at the center of B/R Fantasy League controversy on Friday.
The Bulls' Zach Lavine and the Wizards' Bradley Beal found themselves at the center of B/R Fantasy League controversy on Friday.Nick Wass/Associated Press

The B/R Fantasy League got cutthroat Friday as teams tried to get their final trades in before Saturday's draft.

Houston Rockets fantasy general manager Michael Vernon, arguably the most active executive over the last week, seemingly pulled off a blockbuster, pairing Bradley Beal with James Harden. According to sources privy to the call, the proposed deal had just cleared financial scrutiny and was seconds away from completion when Vernon backed out. The timestamp shows 5:30 p.m. ET. By 5:31, the Rockets had already initiated a new trade call with the Chicago Bulls and a deal for Zach LaVine.

Washington Wizards general manager Cindy Robinson was stunned.

"We got played by Michael Vernon," Robinson said. "This should be prohibited."

Now, Robinson will need to do damage control with the Wizards' best player in a very public scuttled deal that almost sent Beal with Thomas Bryant to Houston for Al Horford, RJ Barrett, De'Andre Hunter, the No. 5 pick Saturday and an unprotected 2021 first-round pick from the Dallas Mavericks.

Instead, the Rockets have an agreement in principle with Chicago that will bring LaVine with Trevor Ariza, Ryan Arcidiacono and the No. 14 pick to Houston while shipping Horford, Hunter, the No. 5 pick and an unprotected 2021 first-rounder from the Atlanta Hawks to the Bulls.

"We keep RJ and only move back nine spots in the draft and have a better long-term contract in LaVine," Vernon said. "I also love LaVine as an off-ball playmaker ... He's an incredible shooter off the catch and can create his own shot."

The Rockets lose out on Bryant but bring back Ariza, whose full $12.8 million was guaranteed as part of the transaction that will be officially recorded after the moratorium. It's unclear how Arcidiacono fits on a roster that has several guards in Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr., Shake Milton and Barrett.

Vernon is hoping to further tinker to better balance his roster.

"Why would they take LaVine over Beal?" one real-world Western Conference executive asked.

While it was clearly a difficult decision for Vernon to renege on a deal with Washington, sources said the financial flexibility with LaVine's $39 million due over the next two seasons (compared to Beal, who can receive $100.5 million over the next three, depending on his $37.3 million option for 2023-23), coupled with the No. 14 pick (via the Portland Trail Blazers), was important enough to change course.

What's more difficult for a real-world executive to grasp is Houston giving up an unprotected Hawks' first in 2021.
"That could be a top-five pick if the Hawks don't improve significantly," he said. "The Mavericks are a playoff team in the Western Conference."

In addition to Harden, LaVine, Ariza and their slew of point guards, Houston also has Robert Covington, Taj Gibson, Furkan Korkmaz, Wayne Ellington and Troy Brown Jr. Vernon previously shipped off All-Star Russell Westbrook (to the New York Knicks) along with Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, Austin Rivers and others in multiple deals while briefly acquiring Marvin Bagley III, Nemanja Bjelica, Hunter and Horford.

Are the Rockets demonstrably better? And if not, what other moves will Vernon do with the team's draft assets and glut at the point guard position?

Meanwhile, Robinson and the Wizards enter the draft at Nos. 4 (acquired from the Bulls earlier in the week with Luke Kornet for the No. 9, a 2021 unprotected first and Moritz Wagner) and 37. Houston will pick at Nos. 14 and 34.


Nuggets' Patience Pays Off

While the rest of the league was wheeling and dealing at a feverish pace, Denver Nuggets fantasy general manager Bryan Toporek remained patient, closing out the week with back-to-back deals.

The Nuggets have agreements in principle to send Jamal Murray, Will Barton and pick No. 43 to the Orlando Magic for Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and pick No. 15. Additionally, Toporek was able to join a previous agreement between the San Antonio Spurs and Brooklyn Nets, rerouting Derrick White from Brooklyn via San Antonio to Denver. The Nuggets will also receive Rodions Kurucs and Theo Pinson from the Nets for Jerami Grant.

The Spurs will still add Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen and the No. 20 pick, but Denver will also send the draft rights to Izzet Turkyilmaz (the No. 50 pick in 2012).

To facilitate the deal, Fournier agreed to opt in to the final year of his contract at $17.2 million to return to the team that originally drafted him with the No. 20 pick in 2012. Sources close to the Nuggets indicate the team expects to extend Fournier after the moratorium for another two years at nearly $37 million.


Raptors Move Lowry

The Toronto Raptors have an agreement in principle to send Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat. Lowry, a vital part of the Raptors' 2019 championship squad, was dealt for Kendrick Nunn, Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk and a 2022 second-rounder.

Iguodala was acquired in real life by the Heat in February, agreeing to an extension in the deal, but Miami has clearly chosen to go in a different direction. Olynyk was eager to opt in to the final year of his contract to play for his home country in Toronto.

The Raptors also sent out OG Anunoby, Terence Davis, Stanley Johnson and Matt Thomas in other deals earlier in the week, bringing in Brandon Clarke, Royce O'Neale and Terance Mann.


Clippers Get Drummond, Give Up Beverley

The Los Angeles Clippers sent point guard, and heart of the team, Patrick Beverley to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday for center Andre Drummond and the No. 22 pick Saturday. Los Angeles also included Ivica Zubac and Rodney McGruder in the deal.

Drummond's time with the Cavaliers was shortlived after a real-life deadline trade in February from the Detroit Pistons. To facilitate the deal, Drummond agreed to opt in next season at $28.8 million. While several general managers assumed Drummond would choose to explore free agency, sources close to the Clippers indicate the team is near an agreement for an extension after the moratorium.

Because of the complicated rules of the collective bargaining agreement, the most Drummond can sign for is two additional years at just under $62 million (with a player option on his final season). Would he have done better in free agency? That's a difficult question, but in Los Angeles, he'll have the chance to compete with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on one of the best teams in the league.

What this means for pending free agent Montrezl Harrell, a potent scorer as an undersized 6'7" center, is unclear.

Earlier in the week, the Clippers dealt Landry Shamet, Mfiondu Kabengele and Mann. They've added Devonte' Graham, who will be asked to fill Beverley's shoes, Cody Martin and Thomas (formerly with the Raptors).

The Cavaliers have undergone a significant transformation as well, adding John Collins, Harrison Barnes and the three Clippers in multiple trades, sending out Kevin Love, Cedi Osman and Drummond.

A Cleveland source said the team almost sent Drummond to the Memphis Grizzlies, with Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson to the Clippers, but that deal fell through when the Grizzlies balked at Drummond's desire for an extension if acquired.


Tim Hardaway Jr. Sticking in Dallas

A well-placed source with the Mavericks indicated the franchise was itching to get another deal done. Tim Hardaway Jr. was involved in multiple conversations with the Rockets and Utah Jazz. Ultimately, Dallas and Hardaway decided to stick together long term in what is believed to be a four-year, $60 million extension that will start next season.

That will keep the veteran scorer with the Mavericks for the long haul without ending a shot at Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, should he become available in 2021 as a free agent.


Draft Buzz

  • The Minnesota Timberwolves will pick one of LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards or Obi Toppin with their No. 2 pick. They have some interest in Saddiq Bey, Patrick Williams or Aaron Nesmith at No. 16. The team also had some intrigue in Charlotte Hornets forward PJ Washington, but the asking price of the No. 2 pick was too high. While Minnesota still wants Devin Booker, word is the Phoenix Suns have stopped returning their calls.
  • The Raptors, who recently acquired Clarke from the Grizzlies, are believed to be considering a deal with the Timberwolves for their two first-rounders. If accurate, Minnesota clearly values Clarke much higher than Washington.
  • The Golden State Warriors have an interest in both Toppin and Onyeka Okongwu at No. 3. They see some Amar'e Stoudemire traits in Toppin and view Okongwu as an ideal big in the modern NBA.
  • Chicago has both Nos. 5 and 9, with designs on the best player available. Assuming Ball isn't available, they have eyes on Toppin, Okongwu and James Wiseman, along with Isaac Okoro, Tyrese Haliburton and even Kentucky freshman Tyrese Maxey.
  • At No. 6, the Cavaliers are hoping one of Toppin, Okongwu or Wiseman drops. At No. 8, the Oklahoma City Thunder might target Killian Hayes, Deni Avdija or Okoro.
  • The Pistons are considering Cole Anthony, Haliburton and Hayes at No. 7. The team is also shopping veteran shooter JJ Redick.
  • The Knicks are considering hiring an unnamed team's head coach to replace Mike Miller, with a 2021 first-rounder as compensation. The Knicks are also talking to the Bulls about a potential pick swap. New York has Nos. 19 and 27, and Chicago owns Nos. 5 and 9.
  • At Nos. 15 and 21, the Nuggets are also interested in Saddiq Bey and Tyler Bey, along with Josh Green, Aaron Nesmith, Theo Maledon and Devin Vassell.
  • The Grizzlies are right in the middle of Denver's picks at No. 18, with an eye on Jaden McDaniels, Paul Reed, Udoka Azubuike or Maledon.
  • The Boston Celtics are looking for a Marcus Smart replacement in a guard or wing with picks Nos. 17, 26 and 46. Possible selections might include Kira Lewis Jr., Green or Nesmith.


Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @EricPincus.